My name is Gill and I’m a small town lover.

If I had to admit to being addicted to anything it would be retail; shopping, browsing, or the term I use to describe it is ‘mooching’. Not necessarily actually buying much but just having a mooch to see what’s around, what the trends are and how the shopkeepers are displaying their wares. I’ve worked in retail all my life so my excuse for shopping was that I was doing research for my job!

Having lived most of my life in the South East where easily accessible large towns and shopping centres with multiple chain shops are the norm when I moved to the South West where the large towns are few and far between I found it a bit of a culture shock. I was used to being able to visit my local shopping centre in the evening if I wanted as they were open until 10pm so when I arrived in my nearest town at 4 o’clock in the afternoon hoping for a couple of hours of ‘mooching’ I was astonished that some the shops were already closed for the day. I had to get used to doing my mooching earlier in the day and find something else to do in the evenings.

Then when I started my job in a small town shop I soon realised why the shops close early. Customers are few and far between in the late afternoon, especially on a cold and wet afternoon in the middle of February. There is just a different lifestyle pattern in the SW and shopping in the evening is done from the comfort of your sofa via the internet (if you can get a decent broadband connection).

Ten years on and I am a convert, I absolutely love a small town to mooch around in and these are the reasons why.

  • Firstly I love the journey through beautiful countryside, I honestly smile and thank my lucky stars that I get to see this on a day to day basis and going to a different town takes me on a different route, therefore different views. 
  • The variety of individual, independent shops that are different in every town you visit. These are shops that have their own quirks and style, some good, some not so good but you know they are places that someone puts their heart and soul into running.
  • The welcome you get when you walk through the door of most of these little shops. A genuine ‘hello’ that shows they are pleased to see you. You don’t get that in a large chain shop even though Flossie might have been rota’d to be on the door.
  • Buying gifts and appropriate greetings cards seems much easier to do. It is a fact there are more gift shops down this way but they’re not all aimed at the tourist trade. There are also a lot more shops selling locally made and handcrafted items and artisan local food shops.
  • There are still independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, oh and green grocers so if all you want is a banana you don’t have to trek all the way around Tesco and queue for 10 minutes.
  • And when you’ve done all that shopping, or even to fortify yourself before you start there are lots of small independent coffee shops, tea rooms or even a pub if that’s what satisfies your thirst.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things you just can’t find in a small town and I still like visiting a shopping centre or large town occasionally, to be fair I’ll never turn down the opportunity of a ‘mooch’ around the shops.